Loyalist Para-Military’s, perhaps unfairly, are more commonly known for there psychopathic rather than artistic tendencies, although Michael Stone of Milltown Cemetery infamy did claim when he attacked Stormont in Nov 2006, that he was merely creating a work of performance art, although that was after he had been apprehended by Stormont security guards. Even so by any standards the recently deceased Sammy Duddy was a one off, for he combined membership of the UDA, one of the north of Ireland’s most lethal loyalist paramilitary groups with a career as “Samantha”, a saucy and sexual drag artist.
In the 1970s he combined his job as a propagandist for the Ulster Defense Association (UDA), the Loyalist Terror group which was responsible for killings hundreds of Catholics, by performing, on his nights off from justifying murder and mayhem, on Belfast’s small but intense cabaret circuit, dressed in fishnet stockings, wig and heavy make-up. He once said of his artistic endeavors: “I wore a miniskirt many a time, but it was usually a long black dress, a straight black wig, a pair of falsies and loads of make-up to cover my freckles. The darker the mascara the better – and scarlet lipstick, because I was a scarlet woman.”
As well as being a star attraction on the cabaret stage, like many who were closely associated with the UDA leadership, Sammy was limited to only the odd appearance before Belfast’s Criminal Court. Whilst no one has ever suggested he was a protected species like many a loyalist para-military, he undoubtedly lived a charmed life if one considers the bloody fraternity he moved amongst. The last time he was due to perform in the dock was in 1990, when after serving a year in prison on remand the authorities dropped a charge of possessing documents likely to be useful to terrorists. He had been arrested in possession of British army files that named PIRA players, which had been passed to the UDA by the security services. Thus it was hardly surprising the State prosecutors dropped this particular hot chestnut.
He was known to have a mild mannered disposition and his acceptance within the UDA and by its younger muscle bound, steroid enhance membership was due to Duddy’s reputation for being a good man to have around when an argument broke out. He edited the UDA’s magazine for a number of years, although it never approached the sophistication of Republican publications. Whilst he was never a leading figure within the UDA, he was regarded as a useful fellow to have around, as so few of the organizations members could be considered intellectuals. In 1983, he produced a volume of poetry, Concrete Whirlpools of the Mind, although I have never had the pleasure of reading this tome.
He was a familiar figure at the UDA’s east Belfast headquarters, working closely with the organization’s then leader Andy Tyrie, when the UDA boss was at the height of his powers. Duddy was well known within the UDA for having an ever ready store of dirty jokes, which must have lightened the mood somewhat when the UDA leadership were discussing whom to target with death and torture.
In later life he remained on the periphery of the UDA, becoming a community activist; unlike many former Loyalist para-militaries who have made the term community activist a euphemism for drug dealer, this was not true in Sammy Duddy case, who continued to be well respected within the Unionist working class communities he lived and worked in.
It was as a community activist that he became embroiled in a number of the violent feuds which have erupted in recent years amongst members of the UDA, as a section of its leadership having sensed the way the wind is blowing have attempted to move the organization away from criminality, which is in itself an oxymoron. Not least because their purpose is to get the UDA’s snout into the peace process trough, which contains considerable sums of UK and EU taxpayers coin. Due to this work, Mr Duddy found himself on the wrong side of neanderful elements within the UDA who wish to continue conducting business as normal within the loyalist working class communities. On a number of occasions Mr Duddy’s home was attacked by dissident UDA members, either by gunfire or by the use of an explosive device.
All jokes aside, in his own way Sammy Duddy epitomized the Belfast Unionist working class communities he came from, in all there glorious complexities. I doubt Belfast will see the likes of him again.
Sammy Duddy, [born Belfast 1945; died Belfast 17 October 2007] Twice married;his favorite pet chihuahua Bambi pre deceased him when it died after a faction of the UDA who had taken offense against Sammy, fired shots into his home and shot bambi dead, Sammy was uninjured.